AFSO21: If it ain't broke, fix it anyway

  • Published
  • By Raquel Sanchez
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
In a time of a changing Air Force, Hurlburt Field Airmen are continuously looking at ways to improve current business processes. The 1st Special Operations Wing's Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century program can help you identify and improve business processes that may be wasteful to an Airman's time and resources.

AFSO21 is an Air Force-wide initiative implemented by leadership to maximize value and minimize waste. It's designed to make positive transformations in how Airmen work.

"It helps us step away from our jobs and take an objective look at the process to find a way to make it more efficient to solve problems that had previously eluded us," said Master Sgt. Darrell Underwood, AFSO21 superintendent for the 1st SOW.

AFSO21 uses various process improvement tools, enabling airmen to use materiel and personnel more efficiently. This "toolkit" is based on principles commonly found in the corporate world like Six Sigma, the 8-Step Problem-Solving method and the WASTE analysis which helps identify the eight major types of waste in an organization.

The 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron used the principles of AFSO21 to streamline their preventive maintenance inspections.

"When we went into the AFSO21 office, we were in need of some guidance on how to get our shop working more efficiently with the manpower we have," said Tech. Sgt. Raul Perez, general repair NCO in charge for the 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron. "We were still doing the same processes we've been doing for years even after our manning was cut significantly."

AFSO21 helped the 1st SOLRS create a process map to help identify the root of the problem. They found that their work area was too large and more time was being spent walking around to get the tools they needed. That time could be spent working on vehicles.

"I'm there to ask the dumb questions," Underwood said. "I'm looking at a process with a new set of eyes."

With the guidance of AFSO21, the squadron developed a plan that enabled their Airmen to utilize their work area more efficiently. Small changes to the shop's scheduling procedures and a reorganization of their work area led to positive changes. Productivity increased, and service time for routine maintenance inspections reduced from five hours to two and a half.

"Before I took a look at what we were doing, I had the 'it's always been done this way' or 'if it's not broke, don't fix it' mentality," Perez said. "With the changes that we have gone through and the limitations of our budget, we had to really look into the way we were doing things. It opened my eyes when I realized how many man-hours were wasted with the 'old way' of doing things."

AFSO21 looks at each business process from beginning to end helping to eliminate steps that add little-to-no value. The 1st SOW's office continuously looks for process improvement projects and will grant a three-day pass to any suggestion selected.

Airmen are encouraged to "think outside the box" and step away from the mindset of "that's the way it's always been done," Underwood said.

For more information about the 1st SOW AFSO21 program or to submit a process improvement suggestion, contact Underwood at 884-7466 or

Note: The base offers an 8-Step Problem-Solving workshop designed to assist airmen with organizational problem solving and decision making. This 2-day workshop is taught once a month and is free of charge. For more information about the workshop, contact the AFSO21 office.